clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What might the New York Red Bulls starting XI look like without Dax McCarty?

Our collective loss will almost definitely prove to be Sean Davis' gain.

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Dax McCarty has officially left the building. While it's going to take some adjusting - on and off the field - for the Red Bulls to get used to the new dynamic, the show must go on.

For that show to go on, the obvious question is: Who will fill in for Dax McCarty in the starting XI?

The equally obvious answer is Sean Davis. Coming into his third MLS season, the Red Bulls' Homegrown starlet has already been singled out by many pundits as the next man to break through from the Academy to a major first team role, if he can get the minutes required for such a move. Jettisoning the club captain is an extreme way to clear space for Davis to grow, but that is one of the clear consequences of the decision to move McCarty on.

The 23-year-old (24 before the 2017 season starts) has some flaws in his game and he is not the same sort of player as Dax anyway. But perhaps the apparent deficits in Davis' game compared to McCarty's will be fixed with experience or forgotten when the younger man is regarded less as a stand-in and more as a starter in his own right.

Right now, it feels like RBNY has given up something defensively when Davis has replaced Dax. But it is also worth mentioning that Sean Davis played all 360+ minutes of the2016-17  CONCACAF Champions League group stage for the Red Bulls, playing a big role in maintaining possession, keeping three clean sheets and allowing the fewest goals of any group stage team. He has made more than 40 appearances for the first team to date, and his game seems to be improving exponentially. He has the requisite experience to take on a starting role - and he obviously has the talent.

As for the gameday starting XI, it should be a simple plug and play that doesn't alter the base 4-2-3-1 scheme overall:

If Davis can bring his possession-work and tackling ability up to the standard  that made McCarty one of MLS's best midfielders, RBNY could very well have the defensive midfield locked up for the next decade. And there are several observers who think subtracting Dax from the squad grows the team's ability to run the 4-2-2-2 it couldn't quite get to work last season.

Sticking with the team's preferred formation from the past two seasons (and the latter half of 2014 under Mike Petke) for the purposes of this discussion, there will be plenty of games in 2017 where Sacha Kljestan is unable to start. Early-round US Open Cup games, perhaps the 2017-18 CCL Group Stage (though a competition structure adjustment might punt that tournament into 2018 for RBNY), hopefully the occasional international match. In those scenarios there might be a bit of movement,with several first-choice players taking a break:

Davis, Muyl, Grella and Collin keep their exact spots but in this case we slide Felipe into Kljestan's No 10 role, and put Tyler Adams in Felipe's spot - as Marsch did last year with his lineups in CCL. Gonzalo Veron takes over for Bradley Wright-Phillips as he did consistently in CCL. We also get Justin Bilyeu and Aaron Long replacing Kemar Lawrence and Gideon Baah respectively and Ryan Meara taking over for Luis Robles.

In the second lineup, with the team missing vital players - BWP, Kljestan and Robles - Davis will be cast in a more senior role, and is potentially the key on-field figure in assisting the development of Tyler Adams.

2017 will feel very weird with Dax McCarty gone. But we can mourn the loss of McCarty while still looking forward to a bright future with plenty of talent still under age 24.